Team Sky won the opening the Vuelta a España’s team time trial today near Ourense to help Chris Froome try to win the overall, but doing so propelled Pete Kennaugh to the red leader’s jersey. He says that it is crazy to think of the attention that has fallen on him now that he is leading the Grand Tour.
Sky narrowly beat Movistar by a fraction of a second, both finishing on the same time of 30-37 minutes over 27.8 kilometres in Spain’s northwest. The next best team Orica-BikeExchange with Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates were six seconds behind. Three-time Vuelta a España winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) lost 52 seconds.
Kennaugh led Sky over the line – Froome said it was not planned – and became only the seventh Brit in the Vuelta leader’s jersey.
“It’s crazy to believe that yesterday I was just another rider and now, I’m thrown into the red jersey and getting asked all these questions. It’s pretty surreal at the moment. It’s a bit unreal. I can’t wait to start tomorrow’s race with the leaders jersey.
“Seventh Brit? Yeah, Mark Cavendish had it 2010, I was there too. It’s special for me even if it’s the 20th Brit the red jersey. I’ve never seen myself in the leader’s jersey in a grand tour any time in the near future, so it’s a surprise and it’s amazing. I think it’ll really sink in tomorrow when we are on the start line in the red jersey. It’s a great way to start the last part of my season it’s really incredible.”
Froome spoke with the press after the stage and complemented Kennaugh, who put on the red jersey with the river in the background and the local wine-producing hills ahead. He said that the team had not planned who would cross the finish line first.
“It definitely was not planned. I was just happy we were going to be in first place because it was within touching distance with Movistar,” Kennaugh added.
“I didn’t have the best April and I was just getting back in form in May. I always start to come back up towards the end of May and June after the Ardennes Classics, but then I crashed in the Tour of California. But it’s a funny old sport with those peaks and troughs. Now, I’m back on top.
“I’ve done everything to be here in the last two months I put a bit more pressure on myself when usually I put myself down and try to take the pressure off my shoulders. But this time I was a bit more confident and I took it on.”
The Vuelta continues with what could be one of the few sprinters’ stages tomorrow in the far northwest above Portugal. Kennaugh will turn his attention to Tour de France winner Froome, who is aiming to add the Vuelta to his palmarès in three weeks’ time
“It’s back to the day job isn’t it? You know what cycling is like this in these days, it is about keeping your leader in position. You have nine classification teams trying to keep their leaders at the front, there’s no such thing as a day off. It’s a case of keeping Froome out of trouble tomorrow and staying at the front.
“We talked about it yesterday, it’s a hundred per cent for Froome. He would be the only guy we were going to wait for today. You might not see the best of him in this first week, but I think in the second and third week and in that time trial in the third week, we are going to see Froome ride into it. He’s such a phenomenal rider that you can’t start thinking about someone else. It’s all for him.”